Always be networking. When you're traveling on airplanes, trains, or another form of mass transportation, introduce yourself to the people you're seated next to and exchange business cards. The close proximity almost forces you to get to know a little about this person, and there's no reason not to. You'll meet some nice and interesting people this way. If you're traveling to the same destination, you've even got an easy topic of conversation—ask about their industry in the city you're traveling to, or make recommendations to them if they are visiting a place you know well. Many sales reps make strong business contacts and friendships by starting up conversations with seatmates.
Once you meet people and exchange cards, they become part of your community of prospects that you should keep in regular communication with. Send them letters, e-mails, or other correspondence a few times a year. Keep these contacts organized. You never know when you may have the opportunity to do business with them.
Attending seminars is another way to help you increase your chances of meeting potential contacts. Holding a seminar of your own allows you to give out information to a large number of people in a short time. Create a seminar based on the benefits of your product or service, and offer it for free. David Bach, author of the book Smart Women Finish Rich and others, began his career by giving free seminars to women through his employer's stock brokerage firm. In his practice he saw similar patterns of women not knowing how to keep and preserve the money they were making, so he decided to start teaching women basic skills that would almost guarantee they'd have a large nest egg when they retired. He was able to gain their trust as a stockbroker and take on many new clients who wanted to invest through him, all because of his free seminars.
The opportunity to speak in front of a group—no matter how small or large—is another great chance to meet prospects and make contact with new people. If you speak often, people will soon view you as an expert in your field.
If you're too nervous to get up and speak in front of an audience or you don't know how to make a speech interesting, you may want to join a Toastmasters group. This is a wonderfully supportive way to learn the basics of giving speeches. You can check it out online at www.toastmasters.com.
Giving speeches marks you as an “expert” in your field. It's easier than you think to find places in your community where you can give speeches. Consider local business or social organizations, the chamber of commerce, and schools. The most important thing to remember is that if you give your audience useful content in an interesting way, they will remember you.